Shana Lebowitz says the advent of new digital technologies over the last few years has some people predicting that the brick-and-mortar office is crumbling. Some say that suits and commutes will be relics of the past as more of us work in our pajamas from our living rooms. Yet there seems to be one major reason why traditional work spaces will never disappear: People generally like coming into an office and interacting with their coworkers face-to-face.
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Stanford University researchers found when they offered some employees at a Chinese travel agency the option to work from home four days a week. Results even demonstrated that remote workers were more productive and more satisfied with their work than those who operated out of an office. But at the end of the study, half of the remote workers expressed that they wanted to come back to the office, largely because they were lonely.
A similar outcome occurred when Timehop closed its New York offices for two weeks and encouraged all employees to work remotely, ideally from somewhere outside their homes. Staffers traveled all over the world, as far as Denmark and Puerto Rico.
While some people appreciated the opportunity to work remotely, some said they felt distracted and had difficulty maintaining work-life balance. Others missed the social interactions with coworkers. Ultimately, the company decided that they weren’t set up to be a “fully distributed” team and would not offer remote work as a perk.
It is a fact that remote workers are about 2.6% of the American workforce. During the same time period, major employers that allow regular telecommuting grew only 2%. This may be partially because employers prefer their staff to work in company offices and because employees themselves enjoy the office setting.
Instead of a fully remote workforce, it’s likely that the next decade or so will see more employees working from home a few days a week. Perhaps what American workers really want is the flexibility to choose when, where, and with whom they work every day.
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